Want to Nurture Your Children’s Strengths? Start with Your Weaknesses
Opening up about your weaknesses with your kids can be the key to their success and a better relationship with them.
by J’Nel Wright
If you are looking for directions, don’t ask me.
I have a horrible sense of direction. Just recently, my brother finally broke the news to me that my two favorite convenience stores situated a block from his Arizona home—places I’ve visited for years to grab a swig or a fresh doughnut—are really the same convenience store accessible from two different directions. True story.
But knowing where I am—or even where I’m going—hasn’t affected my love of travel and sense of adventure. Instead, I merely accept my acute lack of direction as a weakness, and I use Google Maps whenever I leave the house.
We live in a world that is obsessed with perfection. And nobody is more aware of this than your children. They need excellent grades to get accepted to a great school. They must play a superior game to make the team. The drill team or cheerleading squad must be flawless to win the state trophy. And it all needs to look effortless.
Adults struggle with the pursuit of perfection, too. And the result is making us sick. “Having unrealistic expectations about the self can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety, dissatisfaction, and difficulty coping with symptoms,” writes Katharina Star, PhD.
And as young people learn to navigate a sometimes demanding world, it’s important they understand the difference between seeking perfection based on someone else’s standards and doing their best based on their abilities. A useful tool that reminds young people that it’s okay to make mistakes is talking about your weaknesses.
Embracing your weaknesses and sharing your true self will make others feel comfortable doing the same with you. This will allow you to build stronger, deeper, and more meaningful connections with them.
1. Nobody’s perfect. Repeat: nobody’s perfect
We are confronted with the need for perfection, and it’s hard not to feel inadequate. “If you think about why we feel the need to be perfect in the first place, it all goes back to self-worth,” writes author and life coach Zoe B. “If we have a strong desire to be perfect then we may use the idea of perfection as a way to validate ourselves as worthy and valuable human beings.” It’s a self-defeating cycle for an adult. But it is especially difficult for young people. One of the best ways to prove that accepting weaknesses and relying on existing strengths lead to success is by example.
2. Use your weaknesses as an example
Your approach makes all the difference in showing your children the strength within weaknesses. For example, my neighbor, Scott, runs a successful accounting firm. He’s also a loving husband and heavily involved in the lives of his four kids. In the summer, his manicured yard shames the rest of us. In winter, he not only shovels his driveway before the rest of us are awake, but he also finishes the neighborhood sidewalks. He’s the perfect guy. Except for one thing: he’s a terrible dancer. His wife admits that when she first saw him try to bust a move, she thought he was having a seizure. But that lack of rhythm is what we love about him the most. It means he’s approachable—and human. His kids laugh, but they also appreciate knowing that as they work to improve their habits, they are loved.
“Embracing your weaknesses and sharing your true self will make others feel comfortable doing the same with you. You’ll start to see the people around you opening up and sharing their own weaknesses and struggles with you,” says writer Thibaut Meurisse. “This will allow you to build stronger, deeper, and more meaningful connections with them.”
3. Learn from your weaknesses
Although Scott’s groove doesn’t affect his professional and personal success, some weaknesses can interfere with personal achievement. For instance, having a bad temper or procrastination can ruin a relationship or your career. That, in itself, is a powerful teaching tool for your children. “Good parents let their kids fall down from time to time. It teaches the kids how to soothe themselves, as well as where their limits are. It makes stronger, more confident, and more courageous kids,” says writer Melissa Kirk.
Our imperfections don’t define us, but they do offer opportunities to improve. And that’s a valuable lesson for young people. “Learning and growing is a huge part of what makes life so exciting. If you only do what’s safe, you will wrap yourself in a cocoon of complacency and boredom,” says writer Jordan Brown. If your child hopes to be a professor, he or she can address their fear of public speaking, for example.
The world is filled with exciting opportunities for our young people, and none of them require perfection. By sharing past successes in spite of imperfections, you send an important message to your children that sometimes your greatest strengths come from accepting our weaknesses.
J’Nel Wright is a freelance writer who specializes in topics concerning lifestyles, health and wellness, and business. Her work has appeared in a variety of regional and national publications. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in English and Social Work. She has traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, Mexico and much of the United States.